Friday, July 14, 2017

Three times rise in killing of India's land, eco-defenders: Modi blamed for "stifling opposition" by any means

Deaths of land, environment defenders in 2016 
By Our Representative
A just-released UK report has revealed that the number of people killed while fighting for land rights and environmental protection in India has trebled in India, from just 6 in 2015 to 16 in 2016, blaming it on “a disturbing trend" of increasing police brutality in India, wherein the Modi administration shows its determination “to stifle opposition to ‘development’ policies by any means necessary.”
Pointing out that nearly half of those who were killed became victim “heavy-handed” repression by the police when they were engaged in “public protests and demonstrations” during “civil activism”, the 60-page report, prepared by advocacy group Global Witness, which has offices in UK and US, says, “Police were the suspected perpetrators in 10 cases, while logging and mining were the main industries linked to murders.”
In all, 200 people died in violence across the globe, says the report titled “Defenders of the Earth: Global killing of land and environmental defenders 2016”, adding, only three countries witnessed a higher number of persons murdered while fighting for land and environment – Brazil (49), Columbia (37), and the Philippines (16).
Calling 2016 as “the worst year on record” with 16 killed in India, the report notes, among the neighbours, the killings soared in “Bangladesh, where seven activists were murdered compared to none in 2015”, though in Pakistan and China just one person was killed each in 2016.
Insisting that the “spike” in the killings in India should be seen against the backdrop of “criminalised civic action and heavy-handed policing”, the report says, in India, “State repression is on the rise with civil society and human rights defenders subjected to increased criminalization.”
Cover page of the report
Providing the example of “state repression” against Odisha’s Dongria Kondh tribesmen, fighting to defend their forest against MNC seeking to mine the region, and of the “Save Chhattisgarh” movement against a top industrial house seeking to acquire land and displace tribals, the report says, “National legislation giving communities the right to be consulted is often ignored.”
Criticizing the Modi government for seeking to manipulate the law “to clamp down on NGOs that support indigenous tribes in defending their rights in the context of large-scale mining and dams”, the report refers to how in April 2015, the government “revoked Greenpeace India’s registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), preventing it from receiving overseas financial backing in an effort to halt its operations.”
This was followed in November 2016, when “a further 25 NGOs, most of them human rights organisations, also had their licenses revoked under the Act”, the report says, adding, “Media reports quoted unnamed officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs as saying that the NGOs were denied licenses because their activities were ‘not conducive to the national interest’.”
The report emphasizes, “The Modi administration’s shrinking of civil society space is particularly disturbing when viewed in parallel to the government’s aggressive pursuing of foreign investment for large-scale infrastructure, power and mining projects, and apparent disregard of local, particularly indigenous, voices”, even as noting, “Under Indian law, these communities must be consulted before any development project takes place. In practice, these rights are often cast aside.”

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